West Virginia Record

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

GM named in lawsuit over fatal accident allegedly caused by airbags' failure to deploy

Federal Court

By Kyla Asbury | Jan 15, 2020

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BECKLEY – A lawsuit was filed against General Motors after a man died in an auto accident in Eccles.

Dakota William Paynter filed the lawsuit against General Motors as the executor of the estate of Benjamin Thomas Paynter. He alleges that Benjamin Paynter was operating his 2008 Chevrolet Trailblazer on Route 3 in Eccles when a vehicle crossed the center line and struck the Paynter vehicle. 

The complaint was filed in Raleigh Circuit Court before it was removed to U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia.

Dakota Paynter claims the airbags in Benjamin Paynter's vehicle failed to deploy and, as a result, Benjamin Paynter died from injuries he sustained in the accident.

The plaintiff alleges that GM was negligent in the manufacturing of the Trailblazer, failed to recognize the airbag as a critical component in the safety features and failed to test and/or ensure that the function of the airbag module would perform as designed, specified, promised and intended.

"As a direct and proximate result of GM's negligence, Benjamin Thomas Paynter died from injuries sustained in an automobile accident wherein the airbags failed to deploy," the complaint states.

The plaintiff claims GM failed to adequately inspect the vehicle in order to either remedy or warn of the defects.

GM breached its warranties, which Benjamin Paynter reasonably relied upon to his detriment, according to the suit.

The plaintiff claims GM breached its post-sale duty to warn, as it allegedly received many incidents and defect claims regarding the 2008 Chevrolet Trailblazer.

GM's conscious concealment of known facts and its intentional sanitization of original documents constitute willful, wanton and malicious conduct, according to the suit.

The plaintiff alleges that despite having knowledge of the defect, GM deliberately acted to hide this information from the public, including consumers such as Benjamin Paynter, thereby misleading consumers as to the unsafe condition of the vehicle.

Dakota Paynter is seeking compensatory and punitive damages. She is represented by Christopher M. Davis of Wooton Davis Hussell & Ellis.

GM filed to have the case removed to federal court, citing complete diversity of jurisdictions, as GM is a Michigan company. GM also argues the amount in controversy exceeds the $75,000 state court threshold.

GM is represented by Melissa Foster Bird and Michael Drury Frazier of Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough.

U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia case number 5:19-cv-00888

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